'Lucky' escape for 613 passengers crammed on to vessel 'in distress' - MSF
A search and rescue boat from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) attended to a vessel in visible distress carrying 613 passengers.
The Bourbon Argos was engaged in the rescue initially, later calling the assistance of the MY Phoenix with MSF staff on board and an Italian vessel which were nearby.
A statement from the MSF reported that the boat was listing badly and it was clear this could be a problematic operation.
Emergency Coordinator Lindis Hurus described the situation as "intense".
"I spent 45 minutes on our fast rescue boat, staying close to them and talking to them in order to keep them calm until the other vessels arrived to assist us.
"It is an impressive sight when so many desperate and frightened people are crammed on a boat like this.
"The boat was close to tipping over - at one point I really thought it would capsize.
"During the rescue there was a mass man-overboard as people jumped ship, but we had passed sufficient life jackets onto the boat so all the people who jumped were rescued and no one drowned.
"There were many women, children and elderly men.
"Afterwards, I went on the boat to check that everyone had been rescued. What a sight - the conditions in the hold were terrible and I still cannot believe no one died. They were very lucky.
According to Hurus, all passengers were transferred to a Norwegian Navy Boat for immediate passage towards Italy late last night.